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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Ctrl-Alt-Shift Chantelle Fiddy Interview

Part 1 of our art editor’s coverage of United Underground 2, a music, art and activism event that ran all day last Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Written by Valerie Pezeron

SouthBank15All photographs courtesy of Matthew Gonzalez Noda

Valerie Pezeron: Tell me about the event today?

Chantelle Fiddy: It’s a new style of club night. The idea is to bring together music, seek art and activism under on roof to show that they are all married and they can be used towards a good cause.

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VP: It’s the second year in a row, capsule isn’t it?

CF: It’s the second event we did. I think we did the first one in June or July and we used the roof as well last time, advice until it rained and then we had to go inside! It was absolutely mental! So it’s myself on behalf of Ctrl-Alt-Shift, Riz Ahmed, South Bank Centre and British Underground who did the event together. It’s a four-way collaboration.

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VP: Who was the initiator of United Underground 2?

CF: Riz came to myself, because Riz was a resident here and he wanted to do something about getting in the South Bank Centre the kind of music that you normally don’t get in here. And he knew I used to do a clubs’ column at The London Paper for three years and was really into Underground music so he came to me. Chris from British Underground is more into the kind of band and folk side, so Riz just kind of pulled it all together and it went from there.

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VP: Good you mentioned Riz! What is your connection with him?

CF: I met Riz at a talk. We were both talking at a theatre somewhere once. I was like “Oh, my god, Riz Ahmed”, ‘cause I have so much respect for him! And he was like “Oh, my god, Chantelle Fiddy!” I was like, “how the hell do you know who I am?!” And then we just started talking and we just got on really well, we clicked and that was that!

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VP: You describe Ctrl-Alt-Shift as an activist movement. What do you mean by that?

CF: We’re giving young people a platform to bring up issues and to make change. It’s kind of giving them the tools, giving them the confidence to feel they can stand up, say something, and then they’ll be counted for it. In the past we did a campaign around HIV travel bans, and we involve young people in all the processes: how do they feel about the issue, what would they like to see change, how should we demonstrate this to a wider audience/ public?

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VP: What is more important for you? Is it about the political message or promoting the arts in youth?

CF: For me, it is about awareness all around ‘cause I think the two go hand in hand. If we use more models in popular culture to try and make change in the political sphere, we have greater success. So I think it’s more about creating awareness firstly around the issues that we should be aware of around the world.

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VP: So art can change the world?

CF: I think so. Also I think it is about redefining the term activism. And understanding that if you come here tonight, that makes you an activist because you’re paying money to an event that will educate you about not just the music but about other issues. You can hear the speakers in one room, new music in the other room. So I just think it all blends into a big melting pot of change.

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VP: This event reminds me of stuff I did as a student. I was wondering whether you ever wrote for the student paper, or were in student politics or in a student association?

CF: No. I did a journalism degree and then I worked for the paper. And I think that is partly why I think they brought me in because sometimes, with charity and activism, you can feel like an outsider, if you don’t know loads about something. To be honest with you, I don’t have a massive grip on global issues. So the idea is that we all learn together. Because the way I see it, if I read an article and I don’t get what the issue is about, then how is a 19 year-old gonna get it? So the whole idea is as I am learning, you are learning with me. We are trying to make it feel like everyone could be a part of this and it does not matter if you don’t know about an issue, you ask some questions, we’ll give you some answers or you go and make up your own mind.

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VP: Ctrl-Alt-Shift’s operations are strictly UK based?

CF: It’s UK based, so we are a Christian Aid initiative. We started two years ago. They wanted to find a new way to talk to young people about charity. I was told we’re not gonna mention charity or Christian Aid! It’s a really interesting idea because you wouldn’t necessarily expect Christian Aid to start something like that up. So it’s been an interesting journey.

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VP: So what’s next for Ctrl-Alt-Shift?

CF: Now we’re planning all the activity for next year. So we’re looking at our next big cultural collusion, because in the past we’ve worked with Sadler’s Wells, and various people like that so now we’re looking at what to do next. We will be revealing those plans in the next couple of months as they are all being finalised. Starting work on the next magazine, which should be around conflict.

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VP: I read you are advocating bringing the silent majority to the fore. Who is that silent majority to you?

CF: It’s the average man on the street. Most of them go to that point where they don’t know much about the issue to be involved. So it’s about people who want to know or are little bit interested in what’s going on but not sure about how to get involved.

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VP: What’s been the pinnacle for you of Ctrl-Alt-Shift’s journey so far?

CF: For me, it was the rave we did for Haiti a couple of weeks ago. It was insane! You probably saw the line-up, everyone from Ms Dynamite to the cream of the Dub-Step scene, cream of the electro scene. We brought together every genre of music. We had three days to organise it, there was no time to rest, it was actually two hours sleep at night and it was done. And we opened the door at 9 pm and I looked out onto the road and “oh, my god!” Literally, the queue went around into Oxford Street, we were at capacity by 10 o’clock and we made about 10,000 pounds. The atmosphere in the rave and the way people were giving their money, it was just brilliant! I felt a massive sense of achievement, because I looked at that and I thought I have never seen these kind of people involved in a charity event and it showed that a scene can come together. Black music especially gets a raw deal but I think things like that show that it’s not what you see in the media. For me it’s a personal agenda to make people aware that black music is a very positive thing.

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VP: Give people the right platform and they’ll express themselves.

CF: Exactly, it’s not all about hoes, guns and bitches, you know and that’s what everyone thinks. It’s been something I have been working on for ten years, trying to get that across.

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VP: I feel the same, it infuriates me when people say black music, and they think hip-hop. But when they say hip-hop, they amalgamate all “black” music and brand it hip-hop!

CF: You know, at the Brits the way they were stereotyping black men with Jonathan Ross and the way he was dressed, I thought that was one thing. But what he said and the accent and then some of the sly jokes they made towards JZ. This stereotype and prejudice is still running throughout the music industry and the rest of the industry. But the music is doing the talking now, look what is selling in this country. Tinchy Stryder was the best selling UK male of last year. So I say a middle finger to the mainstream.

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One Response to “Ctrl-Alt-Shift Chantelle Fiddy Interview”

  1. Zofia says:

    Great interview! Was at the event too…what a night. Looking forward to the rest of your review!

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